Two Lessons – Part 2

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Gal. 2:1-10

Notice, in verses 7 through 9, the two things that the apostles in Jerusalem saw in Paul: they perceived and acknowledged that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him; and they also saw and acknowledged the grace that was given unto Paul.

This spirit of humility is very important for the church. The end goal for the church should be unity in the Spirit. Unity in the Spirit cannot be achieved where there is no humility. Had the apostles in Jerusalem not been able to see in the Spirit and had they told Paul: “You are a novice in this ministry, what can you tell us?”, the end result would have been a divided church right from the start, and there is no telling where that would have led to.

That is why we need to hail the early apostles as heroes of faith. Not only on account of the miracles that they performed, but more so for their humility. Humility always attends true faith. It is for this same reason that King David is a great man in the Bible. David did one of the most horrific sins recorded in the Bible; yet right to the end he was God’s favorite. How come? It was because David had a humble heart.

It was through this humility that the apostles could recognize Paul for who he was in the Spirit. It was also through this same humility that both Paul and these men could agree on one of the most important pillars of true Christianity: to remember the poor.

Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (v.10)

In ministry, we must remember the poor. Remembering the poor is central to our Christian faith. We can learn from the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In John 13:29, we read:

“For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.”

This scripture clearly shows that Jesus ministered to the poor financially. (We know from other accounts that Jesus ministered physically and materially to the people He preached to.)

What about the Apostle Paul? Paul tells the Corinthians;

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (2 Cor. 11:8)

Today there are men of God who rob God’s people to enrich themselves and to live comfortable lives. There is no way you are going to convince me that a Bentley or a Hummer or a 2000-dollar suit is for ministry. Which proves that even the private jets used by modern preachers are not really for ministry.

There is no place for this kind of lifestyle in the Bible. Paul did not “rob” other churches to enrich himself. But, as we see in 2 Corithinans 8, he took the money he got from the more affluent churches to serve the less fortunate ones. This was to fulfill what th scripture says:

“… he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack” (Ex. 16:18).

As of Paul’s own life, on the contrary, we read of his and his fellow apostles’ lives thus:

“11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 and labour, working with our own hands…” (1 Cor. 4:11-12)

True apostolic ministry will always look out for the poor. That is why the early apostles, who were true men of God, could concur and exhort each other to “remember the poor”. With these men, you would not hear such immature references to the poor as “lazy”, etc.

The long and short of it is that a gospel that does not mind the poor is a dead gospel. Whatever the Bible writes it writes to show us the heart of God. In this singular scripture, it is easy to see God’s heart for the poor and downtrodden people of this world.

Why should we “remember the poor”? It is primarily because nothing in this world is worth a person’s soul. No amount of money that you can hoard in your pocket or bank account can compare with the value of a human soul. Money – or, rather, the love of it – should not hinder us from serving the poor. In serving the poor, we serve God.

The Humility of Naaman

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Ki. 5:14

This is the story of Naaman.

But first… There is a popular story from one of the tribes in our country about a certain elderly man. The story goes that one day, as this man was out herding his cattle in the fields, one of his cows gave birth to a calf. By the time he was ready to take his cattle back home, the new-born calf was strong enough to stand on its own and move about.

The man began walking his cattle home; but now the cow and her young calf would not move from the place they were. The mother’s attention was fixated entirely on her calf, while the calf was entangled about his mother’s legs seeking for her teat. The result was that, as the man tried to shoo both the cow and her calf home, they instead kept turning about in circles.

The man got angry and he began to beat the cow with his herding stick. He kept on beating her mercilessly. By this time, the rest of the herd had put a considerable distance between themselves and the man and his cow. His got more exasperated and he beat the cow even more ruthlessly.

At about that time, a small boy who was about twelve years old came upon the old man punishing his cow. The man was beating the poor beast as if he was on the warpath. The boy observed him for a while. Then he walked up to him and said,

“Excuse me, Sir. Please, Sir, if you would take the calf and carry him in your arms, the mother will follow along.”

The man considered the distance the rest of the herd had moved on and made up his mind. Without further ado, he took the new-born calf in his arms and, to his surprise, the minute he began walking away, the cow swiftly followed along, mooing loudly.

When the man reached home, everyone in his household was surprised to hear him complaining loudly that he could not allow himself to be shamed by a little boy. He kept repeating these words over and over again. As he spoke, he moved about in fast, furious motions, and it was clear to everyone that something deeply unsettling had happened to him. Of course, with the disposition that he was in at that particular moment, no one dared ask him what had befallen him. All they knew was that the father of the house was breathing murder.

Soon afterwards, his lifeless body was found dangling on a rope from one of the trees in his compound. The man, in a blind rage, had gone off and hanged himself.

Later, after the facts had been gathered together, it emerged that the man had hanged himself simply because a small boy had “taught” him how to do something right. This elderly man decided he could not live with such an affront to his pride and he took his own life.

In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read about Naaman, a captain of the Syrian army. The Bible declares about Naaman that he was

“a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” (2 Ki. 5:2)

Notice that Naaman had achieved his many victories by the hand of the LORD. That little fact is central to our lesson here. But, as we shall see later, though it be of the Lord, it is not the doing that is important with God; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts.

Although Naaman was a great and mighty warrior, yet he was a leper. Despite all his victories and all his glory, Naaman had no joy in his life. So he went down to Israel for he had heard that he could receive healing of his leprosy there. But he was a proud man and when he arrived in Israel he met with a series of events that progressively undermined his pride. The final insult was when the Israelite prophet, Elisha, instructed him to go dip himself in the muddy waters of the Jordan seven times and he would be healed. Naaman decided he had had enough and he turned to go back home.

But praise God, Naaman had servants who truly loved him. They came up to him and besought him, saying:

“My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (v.13)

At which Naaman hearkened to them.

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

I have heard songs sang saying, “Speak, Lord! Speak, Lord”, etc., meaning those singing them are ready to obey God at the touch of a button. This imaginary readiness comes about because people have a romantic view of God and of His calling.

But there is nothing romantic about the call of God upon one’s life. The call of God to obey Him is one of the most difficult things in our lives, simply because it of necessity touches our pride. We are born with the seed of pride in us.  It is good and OK to sing out our eagerness to obey God, but remember the devil also sang (as all angels do); but still he allowed pride tot come into his heart, and he ultimately rebelled against God.

Moreover, according to the lesson that we learn in the story of Naaman, you can do many extraordinary things for the Lord but still be proud. That is why there are many men of God who do miracles and wonders in Jesus’ name, but they have pride in their hearts and are burdened with sin in their hearts. Jesus said of these people that He will tell them on the last day:

“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mat. 7:23)

It is not the doing; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts that is important with God. God had to heal Naaman of his pride first before He would heal his body.

The Bible says in Romans 8:7:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

Pride breeds anger and every other work of the flesh and it is incapable of doing the will of God. Ultimately, it brings death upon its bearer.

That is why we need to crucify the flesh, or the carnal mind. Without crucifying our flesh we cannot truly obey, or please God.

No man got to learn this lesson first-hand than Naaman himself. He had set out to ‘obey’ God on his own terms, where his pride would remain untouched. But God brutally turned the tables on him, and he was left to decide whether he would obey God on God’s terms or not. His healing lay in that single fact. He had to choose between nursing his pride or rejecting it and receiving the healing for his body.

That was under the old covenant. Under the new, the gospel has to do with the healing of our souls. We therefore have to choose between defending our pride and receiving God’s eternal life.

Ultimately, Naaman’s spiritual legacy lay, not in the many victories that he won on the battle field (although it was the LORD Himself who wrought these victories through him). Rather, he will be remembered in eternity on account of his conversion through humbling himself.

“15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel… thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. 18 In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. 19 And he said unto him, Go in peace.” (2 Ki. 5:15-19)

[Below: Obedience is key to receiving eternal life]

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The Humility of Zacchaeus -Part 1

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Lk. 19:1-9

I had set out to write about Zaccheaus, but things sort of got out of hand…

I am convinced in my heart that God has a special place for the man with a humble heart. Above all things, I am convinced, God hates a proud heart. And I believe it is the same with us. Consider the murderer who can say, “I am sorry” and mean it. Most of us would look at such a man with a different eye. Nearly every sin is forgivable if the perpetrator can show enough remorse.

With God, of course, it is much more so. Think about the case of David and Uriah in 2 Samuel 11. David did what no man ought ever to do – he slept with another man’s wife and, to cover up his crime, he had that man killed. Moreover, after Uriah was killed, David sent and had the man’s wife brought to him and David took her and made her his wife. I often wonder what any of us righteous people would have done to David had we been in God’s place. I will leave that to your imagination.

But God, who is infinitely more righteous than we, planned on doing worse than any of us could have conceived. He planned to kill David among a host of other things that He intended to punish him with.

But the Bible says that, upon hearing from the Prophet Nathan the sentence that God had passed upon him, David humbled himself before the Lord and declared,

“I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

The difference between God and us is that God is quick to let go of His anger. Upon hearing David’s humble reply, the Bible says:

“And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

It was that quick with God. God is not quick to anger as we are. On the contrary, He is quick to show mercy to a repentant heart.

The word “also” here means that God hearkened to David when He saw David’s humility. He regarded David with a merciful heart.

I am also reminded of another Israelite king. This king’s name was Manasseh. Let us see how totally evil this man was.

“1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: 2 But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. 3 For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. 4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: 8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. 9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. 10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.”

2 Kings 21:16 adds:

Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

But on reading the account in 2 Chronicles further we find something else, something different about this king:

11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. 14 Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. 15 And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. 16 And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. 17 Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers. 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.” (2 Chron. 33:1-20)

I used to wonder why God would allow such an evil king to reign for 55 years. That’s way too long for such a horrible man!

But then I realized that Manasseh actually reigned two terms in Israel. During his first reign he did all that evil. Eventually, God caught up with him and He had him pay for his folly by banishing him into exile. While in exile, though, the Bible says of this king:

“12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.” (2 Chron. 33:12-13)

God heard Manasseh’s humble cry and, in spite of the fact that he had done so much wickedness against God, God reinstated him to the throne, and Manasseh reigned for another term where he restored nearly all the work of the Lord that he had torn down during his first reign.

Yes, God does indeed have a soft spot for the man with a humble heart.

[Below: God shows great mercy to the repentant in heart]

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Our God – A Humble God

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Mt. 6:1-4

When the great actress, Joan Crawford, was about to die from a heart attack, it is reported that her housekeeper knelt by her side and began to pray for her. At which Crawford snarled at her, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

And yet, this was a woman whom God had blessed with almost everything this world had to offer: beauty, talent, wealth and fame. At the time of her death in 1977, her estate was worth an estimated $2m.

By the time Crawford arrived at the end of her life’s journey at the grand age of 73, she had physically soaked in tons and tons of sunlight, received untold blessings caused by God’s rain and breathed in all the oxygen she ever needed. So much so that even her death was not caused by a lack of oxygen!

And these were just the “bare necessities” of life. God had given her so much more!

I did not set out to write out any negative thing about this exceptional woman. But it is clear that she had written God out of her life. Her attitude probably had to do with the fact that God had never physically hollered out to her from heaven, “Hey, Joan! Do you know that it is I who supplies all this goodness to you?”

When I recalled this story, I thought about the many people in this world who refuse to acknowledge God and yet live – indeed, thrive – off His goodness and kindness. This is something that has been happening for hundreds of centuries, ever since Adam. Apart from the self-avowed agnostics and atheists of this world, even the best of us have at times been doing things that are not pleasing to God. And yet at no single moment, since the creation of the world, did God sort of get impatient and say to us, “Lookey here, you fellows. I feed you, I clothe you and all you do is ignore me and do things that are displeasing to Me!”

More to the point, however, is the fact that at no time did God brag about the fact that it is He who provides for our incredibly multi-faceted existence. In my lifetime I have heard prophecy after prophecy (which is where we believe God speaks real-time) and I have never heard God talk about how it is He who is supplying our oxygen and our food. I find that extremely remarkable.

God quietly keeps in the background. So how do we come to know that it is God who provides us with these things?

God does so by allowing others to speak on His behalf. The Bible, in Romans 1:20 says:

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead”.

In other words, God lets His creation talk – and take credit – on His behalf. It is like allowing your servant to be honored on your behalf. It would require a man of extraordinary self-control to do that.

Everything the Bible says about God tells us about God’s character. Humility is one of the attributes of God. God is extremely humble and He can do every good thing without trumpeting the fact… so much so that many, many people actually think that God is non-existent!

We, too, are called by God for one singular purpose – to carry in us His character. Our lives should therefore be a demonstration of the humble character of God.

The Bible says the character of God in us is demonstrated in a “meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Pet. 3:4)

It is even so with our giving. We are to give in such a discreet manner that our left hand is left unaware of what the right hand has done! That talks of humility. Such an attitude is of great price in the sight of God.

Doing this, however, requires the kind of self-control that many of us do not have. But God has made a way for us to perfectly carry out this directive. For us to carry out this directive from God in its perfectness, we need to go back to the basics – the cross of Jesus. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16:24)

In other words, Jesus was saying that if any man wants to do what God requires him to do, he has of necessity to

“deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow (Christ)”

When we are taking up our cross and following Jesus, it is easy to do good with a meek and humble spirit. It is easy to present ourselves to God, and not to men.

[The Hillsong oldies are an indescribable treasure]

We Are One

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26-28
An argument was brewing up in church. Somebody had come to church with their sick child and another child had gone to play with him. The mother of the second child rushed up and hustled her child away from the sick one with the words, “Watch out! He is going to infect you!”
The mother of the sick child overheard the words, and she did not take it well. She came to the defense of her child – and her dignity.
Thus began a very ugly spat right inside the church grounds. The cross of Jesus had been thrown overboard.
Inside one of the cars going home after the service sat the mother who had snatched away her child from the company of the sick one. She was a well-educated and well-groomed lady.
The car had four other passengers, all equally well-educated. Still smarting from the unpleasant exchange she had had with her sister-in-Christ, the sister remarked: “Couldn’t she have had the sense to leave her child at home? How can one bring such a sick child to play with other kids?”
To which one of the company replied, “The problem is that that lady is not educated.”
From that point onwards, the conversation inside the car revolved around the merits of being educated and the disadvantages of being uneducated. Not one person who spoke made any reference to taking up their cross and following Christ. Instead, they all came to the support of the sister who was with them in the car.
This is not a story that I have made up. It is an actual incident that occurred in a certain church.
The first words in the Bible are:
“In the beginning…” (Gen. 1:1)
In everything we must start in the beginning. Where were you before you got educated? Where were you before you became rich? What were you before you became the self-made man or woman you have become? Where were you before you became white or black?
The cold fact is that you were nothing. You have no idea of your origins because it was God who ordained you to come into this world. And even after you were born, there was a time you did not know your left hand from your right hand.
Education, riches, status, cultural background, etc. – all these are things that we stumbled upon in this world. These things are of this world; they are not of God’s heavenly Kingdom. As spiritual people, therefore, we cannot boast in them. Nor can we allow them to divide us as children of God.
Rather, we are to desire to take up our cross and humble ourselves and realize that we are what we are simply because we are in Christ. Without Christ, we are nothing.
The Jew, the Greek; the bond, the free; the male and the female: all these are qualities that are of this world. They set the boundaries for us in the flesh. But in the Spirit, we are one. There is none of these things that divide us.
To be honest, I have a problem with being a man. There are certain inborn traits and expectations that come with this attribute which, in the Spirit, are more of a hindrance to me than the positive qualities that the world makes them out to be.
That is why I need the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ in my life will deal with the mind of the flesh that is inherent in these qualities. The cross of Christ will mould in me the mind of Christ, whereby I can have the grace to consider my wife a fellow heir with me of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7), rather than as just a woman.
The grace of God in me will make me to lift men of low estate and cause them to become my equals in the Spirit instead of looking down on them.
The grace of God in me will cause me to give the respect due to my superiors in life, not out of fear, but because I love them; they are my brothers and sisters.
The grace of God, that we receive as a result of the cross working in our lives, will make us truly one, the true Body of Jesus Christ.
God’s grace in us will make us to effectively do the will of God, which is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

A God-Affected Heart

“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Is. 66:2

A few years back I visited the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and, in the course of my stay there, some brethren took me for a swim in the ocean. Mauritius is an incredibly tiny piece of volcanic rock situated right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and the currents here can be very strong. On the particular day that we went swimming, we decided to swim out as far as we could into the ocean. We would go out and allow a powerful wave to pummel us back onto the coast again. I enjoyed the thrill, but I was aware I was risking my life because the water was extremely powerful and once or twice it threatened to sweep me out to sea.

In the same vein, it would be impossible for one to stand next to the rail tracks as a train hurtled past at 100 miles per hour and not be affected by the wind blast.

I use these two analogies here to show how impossible it is to be unmoved when one meets the Living God – unless one’s heart is made of stone. Only a rock by the rail tracks would remain unaffected by the blast from a speeding train.

Still, even if the train was moving at a trillion miles per hour, God is infinitely more powerful than that train. And even if all the oceans of the world were to join themselves into one mighty wave – a mighty wave it would be indeed! – still, God is infinitely more powerful than that wave.

Now, I am thinking that if the blast from a speeding train can affect us, how much more can God’s power affect our hearts? And yet, here, when God says

“… but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”,

it is clear that not all men tremble at God’s Word. Indeed, it is more than likely that more people do not tremble at God’s Word than those who do.

Now, that is a most wonderful thing to contemplate… the fact that there is something that God’s power cannot affect, which is a hard heart!

To tremble at God’s Word. Jesus said,

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat. 7:21)

When God calls us, we should fear, above all, becoming merely religious. We should not forget the power of God that moved in us when we first believed. The Bible says it is impossible for one to remain the same when God meets them. God told Moses:

“… Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Ex. 33:20)

That scripture is in the Old Testament. But now, the Bible says,

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

Now, under the New Covenant, we behold God face to face. Therefore we cannot live. We must die. Hence, the cross. Hence, the need to understand clearly the meaning of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:2:

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

There is only one place where God’s power is unable to do anything: a hard heart. That is the reason we need to make sure we allow the cross to break us every day. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, God immediately gives us a humble and contrite heart. The word “contrite” indicates a heart that breaks, or repents, easily. It is the heart that cries easily. But this heart also moves quickly to do that which pleases God.

This heart, which God gives us, is a treasure, and it is a treasure to be guarded at all costs. Wherever treasure is to be found, someone will always try to steal it. It is our responsibility to guard that treasure.

When we allow things into our hearts that make our hearts hard, we have lost that treasure, for the Holy Spirit is gentle and He can only work where there is a soft heart. Things like unforgiveness and pride harden our hearts. When our hearts are hard, God cannot move in us.

The condition of our hearts is something we need to take extreme care of. We need make sure our hearts are soft and pliable in God’s hands. That is our true responsibility.

[Below: Once in a while, a song moves in my heart in such a tremendous way that I can do nothing but surrender to it. Sarah K’s song, “You Alone”, has been the very song these last weeks. I thought I should share it with my readers.]

Loving Our Wives

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it Eph. 5:25

My favorite scripture when it came to me and my wife had always been Ephesians 5:22-24:

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

I especially loved the parts about the husband being the head of the wife and the exhortation to the wife to submit to her husband “in every thing”. Whenever an argument arose between me and my wife, I would bring up that scripture and I would insist that she submit to me in everything, just as the scriptures stated.

I would tell her, “If you do not submit to me, then you are not submitting to Christ.”

Little did I know that one day, God would show me just how much I needed to submit to my wife!

It is no secret that most conflicts in marriage do not occur because there is no “food on the table”; otherwise, Hollywood would top the list of most stable marriages. There is no lack of food there.

But, on the contrary, conflicts in marriage more often come about due to disagreement issues between the husband and wife. One or both parties find it impossible to concede to the other and the result is that they engage in an eternal state of agreeing to disagree. In many cases, this leads to divorce, with one – or both – parties claiming “irreconciliable differences”.

But the truth is that no difference between husband and wife is irreconciliable. The cold fact is that people are unable to take the spiritual path of denying self, taking up their cross and following Christ.

When you are far from the cross, arguments and disagreements are the order of the day in any marriage and, on my part, being a stranger to the death of the cross meant that I as the man always had to have the last word in the constant war of words that rose up between me and my wife.

One day, however, as I was studying the Word of God, I arrived at Ephesians 5:25, a scripture which I had always glossed over. This time, for the first time, I noticed the second part of that scripture:

“Husbands, love your wives, EVEN AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT”.

I had never noticed that last part. At least, I had never stopped to think that I ought to love my wife as Christ loved His church. The idea appeared strangely new to me. So I decided to look up how Christ loved His church. And I found the answer right there. Christ loved His church by giving Himself for her.

Immediately, my justification mode kicked in. I began thinking of the many ways that I had given myself for my wife. I remembered the many good things I had done for her, especially when I had a good-paying job and I could provide for her. I recalled even how for a time, when we were both out of work, I had worked some of the lowliest jobs in order to provide for her.

But, on this particular day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and I held off justifying myself, at least momentarily. I decided to study more.

I remembered Colossians had similar words, so I looked it up. I found it in Colossians 3:19:

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”

There! That had to be it. I had always carried a hard and bitter heart towards my wife. I thought she was rebellious and argumentative, and I could not take it. Over the course of time I had developed a hard heart towards her.

For the first time, I saw the situation clearly. When the Lord showed me my heart, I realised that I did not love my wife, because I was bitter towards her. For the first time, I felt I had been running from something, and I stopped running and confronted it.

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and I felt I could make a go for it. I decided to work on the problem.

The first thing I did was, of course, was to stop justifying myself. I realized I did not love my wife, and that was it. The next step was to see how I could begin loving my wife in the new way that the Lord had shown me.

But I instantly realized this would be no easy undertaking. It was clear that if I was to begin loving my wife by “giving myself” to her, it meant I had to lower myself beneath her especially in the case of a disagreement. If a disagreement arose between us I had to allow her to win. The prospect was quite unnerving. But the Lord was there, speaking to me. There was no way I could ignore His voice. And so, by the grace of God, I began the long journey towards doing God’s will with regard to loving my wife.

Bending to my wife’s will is an ‘art’ that has taken me many years to perfect. Not that I am anywhere near perfect, of course. But the bitterness is gone. Now, many years later, however difficult the situation is and however hard we may disagree, the bitterness is no longer there. That is the Good News, as far as I am concerned.

I cherish with all my heart that valuable lesson… that of humbling myself to my wife by going down and letting her be the winner. That is how Christ gave Himself for His church.

[And now, for your listening pleasure…]